The Obama effect: An experimental test

Joshua Aronson, Sheana Jannone, Matthew McGlone, Tanisha Johnson-Campbell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Past research on stereotype threat and role model effects, as well as a recent quasi-experiment (Marx, Ho, & Freidman, this issue) suggested the possibility of an "Obama effect" on African American's standardized test performance, whereby the salience of Barack Obama's stereotype defying success could positively impact performance. We tested this reasoning in a randomized experiment with a broad sample of college students from across the country. Specifically, we tested the hypothesis that students prompted to think about Barack Obama prior to taking a difficult standardized verbal test would improve their performance relative to white students, and to African American students in control conditions that were not prompted to think about Obama. Our results did not support this hypothesis. Test scores were unaffected by prompts to think about Obama and no relationship was found between test performance and positive thoughts about Obama, a disconfirmation of both the findings and conclusions of the Marx, Ho, and Freidman study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)957-960
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2009


  • African Americans
  • Role models
  • Stereotype threat
  • Test performance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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